Lately, things seem to be spiraling out of control. It seems like 2020 decided to start the new decade off with some action. Some are taking it seriously while others continue to stick their head in the sand and dismiss what’s happening around them. I even came across a Washington Post news clip showing quite a few university students being interviewed while partying it up in Miami over spring break. Apparently, COVID-19 was an “inconvenience” to their vacation plans, but they were determined to overcome the obstacles and find another way to carry on with their much-needed rest and relaxation (Bella, 2020). And the entire time I kept thinking to myself, someone please just slap the bejeezus out of them! I would like to assume that AU students, and most Canadians as a whole, have more common sense than this. However, I have a feeling that, after the COVID-19 situation settles down, risk managers, business continuity managers, and emergency management practitioners will all be sought after more than usual.
Risk management is described as any actions taken (before an event) to try to change or control the frequency and severity of a potential incident. For example, installing sprinkler heads in every room to reduce the severity of a potential fire is a basic risk management control. Emergency preparedness involves directing people and valuable resources away from danger, such as those pesky emergency drills most office workers can’t stand, evacuation exercises, and training sessions. It also includes working with first responders to ensure everyone makes it through a crisis safe and sound. Business continuity is just what it sounds like: continuing business, or having a plan in place to make sure everyone returns to business as usual, after the dust settles or to keep the gears churning for essential services.
So how does all this tie in with our very own family life and everyday activities? While this COVID-19 lockdown may not have affected our studies as much (hooray for AU), it’s disrupted our everyday lives. The new reality our world faces is that, if it wasn’t COVID-19, it would have been something else. Emergency situations happen all the time, we’re just not exposed to it first-hand. Most of us have had the luxury of watching everything through our television screens until now. This time, however, everyone is at the heart of it. Don’t be fooled, however, thinking this will be a one-time event. Most risk management analysts, executives, and practitioners agree that global emergencies are on the rise.
The World Economic Forum conducts an annual survey, in partnership with many risk management executives, multinational insurers, and various faculties of business—such as the National University of Singapore and the University of Oxford. Their 2019 Global Risks Report has biological risks in their top six societal risks, in terms of affect (2019, p. 98). Are you surprised?
Ironically, they note, “The world is badly under-prepared for even modest biological threats” (2019, p. 46). The world is becoming more uncertain, complex, and interconnected—this is not going to be a one-time show, so we all need to get used to it and be able to prepare. The key question, then, is how do we make better decisions about uncertainties that affect our future? We don’t know what the next emergency could be. So here is where the fun part comes in. Now that we’re all stuck at home, sit down with the kids and start sharpening your family risk management and emergency preparedness strategy. Think back to all the movies you’ve ever seen together, whether it’s classics like Twister (Bryce, Chricton, & Kennedy, 1996) or Contagion (Shamberg, Sher, & Jacobs, 2011), or even Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Marsden, 2009). No scenario is too far-fetched or off the table. Once you have your list, get down to the root problem in each scenario. What caused this, what were the consequences, and who made it out alive, because that’s what your goal is (I hope). Then, start making your own plan, as a family, on how you can be more prepared the next time we are faced with our new reality.